A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. Having a home inspected is like giving it a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation.
1. What does a Home Inspection include?
The standard Home Inspector’s report will review the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure. In Austin home inspections pay particular attention to slab foundations, because of the variability of soil moisture here. The inspection is not intended to be an exhaustive inspection of every component present in the home or of cosmetic items or environmental concerns and issues.
A service of this nature is available from some companies, but at a much higher fee then the standard home inspection. The inspection will also include a review period with the Inspector. If you are present during or at the end of the inspection, the review will take place at that time. If for any reason you cannot be present for the inspection, the inspector will review the report with you over the phone at a scheduled time. To review a copy of the American Society of Home Inspectors or ASHI standards of practice, please go to http://www.ashi.com/customers/standards.htm.
2. Why do I need a Home Inspection?
The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards. Of course, a home inspection can also point out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape.
After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase. If you are already a homeowner, a home inspection may be used to identify problems in the making and to learn preventive measures which might help you to avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, you may wish to have an inspection prior to placing your home on the market. This will give you a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer’s Inspector and an opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.
3. What will the Home Inspection cost?
There is not really any set standard fee for an inspection. Prices can vary dramatically in local areas, not to mention across the nation. On average, most inspections will vary between $8 and $12 per 100 square feet, with additional fees for extra systems. It is all too often that cost is the deciding factor in the selection of an inspector. Service and experience should be the key words here. Some Inspectors are committed to providing the best inspection possible. These Inspectors spend a lot of time and money towards continued education and the many little things that make a big difference in the quality and professionalism of their service. Do not let a small amount of money stand in the way of a quality inspection of such a large investment.
4. Can’t I inspect the home myself?
The old saying will always hold true. “You are likely to get exactly what you pay for.” When hiring an inspector to review what may be the largest investment of your life, I recommend that you consider quality and reputation prior to price.
5. Can I fail a Home Inspection?
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A Home Inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement. At the end of most inspections, the first question a client will often ask is, “Would you buy this home?” At this point we have to explain that we are not in the business of purchase decision consulting. What we are getting at here is that the pass / fail question is one that our clients have to answer for themselves.
It is critical that the client understands the information in the reports. We are always glad to explain why we feel that something may need to be repaired or further evaluated. We also want our clients to have a clear picture of items that are major issues vs. maintenance issues. However, it is not possible for us to advise our clients regarding the decision to purchase the home. Putting aside the fact that such a service goes way beyond the scope of a home inspection, we are not qualified to answer such a question. Items such as personal preference and background, purchase price, price for repair of items listed in our report, terms of the agreement / contract and more must all be considered in such a decision. Therefore, the question of pass / fail is a very personal question that must be made by our clients and encompasses many issues other then the condition of the property.
6. What is the American Society of Home Inspectors?
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the leading non-profit professional association for independent home inspectors in the United States. Since its formation in 1976, ASHI has played a key role in working with the HUD and state licensing boards to establish an effective Standards of Practice and honorable Code of Ethics that all Real Estate Inspectors should follow. ASHI has the most rigorous membership standards of any other Home Inspection Organization in the United States. Their members must pass two difficult examinations, perform no less then 250 fee-paid inspections, submit reports for verification and provide evidence of continued education on a regular basis.
The Standards of Practice is a performance guideline for Real Estate Inspectors that is universally recognized and accepted by professional and government authorities alike. The Code of Ethics prohibits members from engaging in any conflict of interest activities which might compromise their objectivity. This is the consumer’s assurance that the Inspector will not, for example, use the inspection to solicit repair work. In order to assist home inspectors in furthering their education, ASHI sponsors a number of technical seminars and workshops throughout the year. ASHI also serves as a public interest group by providing accurate and helpful consumer information to homebuyers.
7. When do I call in the Home Inspector?
A Home Inspector is typically contacted right after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed, and is often available within about a week. During the summer months it may be necessary to contact a home inspector up to 10 days in advance. Before you sign, be sure that there is an inspection clause in the contract, make in your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms to which both the buyer and seller are obligated. For more information regarding the inspection clause, it will be necessary to consult with a reputable Realtor that is licensed in your state.
8. Do I have to be present at the inspection?
Many real estate agents recommend attending the inspection as an opportunity to learn more information about the home you are considering buying. In some cases however, client attendance can be very distracting to the Inspector. Regardless of your decision to attend the entire inspection, it is always a good idea to have an on site meeting with the Inspector to discuss their findings. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions and get a solid feel for the true condition of the home. We encourage you to always thoroughly read the report. Regardless of the information obtained from the post inspection meeting, there is likely to be additional information in the written report. If you have any questions regarding the written report, do not hesitate to call your Inspector.
9. What if the inspection report reveals problems with the home?
No house is perfect. If the Inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. A seller may adjust the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are found. If your budget is tight, or if you don’t wish to become involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely important to you.
10. If the house proves to be in good condition, did I need an inspection?
Definitely. Now you can complete your home purchase with your eyes open as to the condition of the property, including its equipment and systems. You will also have learned many things about your new home from the Inspector’s written report and will want to keep that information for future reference.